Understanding Keyboard Macros

Learn what macros are and how they can make you more productive.H
Published: Apr 6, 2006
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Related OS: Windows
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This question submitted by Lindsy Anthony, Paul Thompson, Lisa James, Joel Rubenstein, Patrick LaBelle, Donna Foxsworth and numerous others

I've received a lot of questions about macros, Asking about Word macros, Excel macros, and in general, "What are macros?" Well, as a person who has been using macros as long as I can remember, I'll be happy to tell you.

A lot of the things you do on a computer are repetitive. People are creatures of habit so it's only natural to do certain things over and over again. You may go on-line and always go to a certain news page, you may always "sign" your name a certain way in emails, and there are probably certain programs you use over and over. Someone like me is at a computer all day for at least 12 hours. In dealing with clients in my marketing business or even in writing reviews there are things that I'd type over and over if I didn't use macros. So, what is a macro?

A macro, sometimes called a keyboard macro, is actually a recording. What a macro program does is give you a way to "record" the things you do all the time and save them! Really pretty slick. And just like an audio recording, you can play your macro recordings back. Over and over. I first started using keyboard macros back in the early days of DOS and I wouldn't be without them. Just a few things you can use macros for include:

  • Launching programs
  • Launching a brower and going to a site
  • Inserting text in large or small blocks
  • Connecting and disconnecting network drives
  • Changing settings on your comptuer
  • Sending an email
  • Inserting different "signatures" into your emails
  • Shutting down your computer
  • And lots more!

There are a number of excellent macro programs and most have fairly similar functions as far as what they do. Some macros can be put on a timer so they run at a certain time each day. Macros can be used to automate many of the things you do on your computer all the time. If you do technical support or work at a help desk a macro program can be invaluable. For example, for ten years I answered user questions on America Online. Many users asked questions about the same things ... how to unpack a ZIP file, how to do their email, and so on. And rather than type out those answers every time I received a question I would put the answers in macros. A really great way to save on time and typing.

Nearly all macro programs utilize what are called "hot keys" to run macros. So, for example, I might have assigned my answer for how to work with ZIP files to the key combination CTRL + ALT + Z. That's holding down the "Control" key, holding down the ALT key, and then pressing the Z key. That combination would be the "hot keys" that would trigger that macro. Some macro programs also let you trigger macros using various combinations of letters. For example, you might assign "adD" to automatically insert your full address, or "PhN" to put in your phone numbers. Some macros can be triggered by certain events, like a specific program opening. For example, you could create a macro that would launch your Internet bookmark manager every time you opened your default Web browser. Very handy.

Macros can be used to automate even complex events and tasks on your computer. I use macros all day long to insert different signatures in emails, answer common questions, launch programs, and lots more. If you've never tried a macro program you should give one a try. A few of the excellent ones I've tried include:

I think you'll find that keyboard macros will save you time, make you more efficient, and reduce the amount of things you have to type. They add a level of convenience when you have to do repetitive things on your computer.

I'd like to thank Lindsy Anthony, Paul Thompson, Lisa James, Joel Rubenstein, Patrick LaBelle, Donna Foxsworth and numerous others for asking thisquestion.

If you have a question on any technology topic that you'd like someoneto tell you about you can submit it via email by clicking HERE You will not receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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